Dietribes: Nuts for Cashews


• The cashew is a very unusual nut. The largest part of the fruit is the juicy, pear-shaped part called, naturally, the "apple," which is eaten raw or fermented to become alcohol (or juices, syrups and preserves). The nut itself grows at the lower end of the "apple."

• In the Tupian languages of South America, it is known as "the nut that produces itself."

• The cashew tree is in fact a native of South America, but the Portuguese introduced it to the East African and Indian parts of their empire in the sixteenth century. Today, these areas are the biggest exporters of the nut. (Although the single biggest producer may be this giant cashew tree).

• It's also possible that fossilized cashew nuts in Germany may reveal that Europe was an important trade route between Africa and South America.

• Why aren’t cashews sold in shells? Because they are related to poison ivy and poison sumac, and the acid in the shell can blister your hands, that’s why!

• Although lower in total fat than most nuts, cashews are high in saturated fat. They are a good source of folacin, iron, protein, and vitamin C though, and the cashew apple is also so high in vitamin C that it is used in beverages and to make jelly (even nut butter!)

• You can also buy cashew juice, although the description by the New York Times of "milky cashew juice, served chilled, is a refreshing change of pace" doesn't exactly sound delicious … (or does it? Has anyone tried it?)

• Cashew nutshell liquid is used in the epoxy, coating, frictional material, printing, rubber, wood and specialty polymer industries. Yum?

• More cashews in industry: cashew brake pads? Eco One, an environmentally-friendly racing car from WMG, based at the University of Warwick, has tires made from potatoes and brake pads from cashew nut shells, and it does 0-62 mph in four seconds with a top speed of 125 mph. Yum!

• Finally, in a weirdly funny (because it has a good ending!) story, a British man was diagnosed with lung cancer until it turned out that the problem they found was just a cashew nut. "I am feeling fine now, and am just thanking my lucky stars it wasn't cancer," he said. "I can't remember choking on a nut. It's ironic really as I don't even like the darned things."

• And don't forget to mark your calendars - November 22 is National Cashew Day!

• I love cashews, but then again I love all nuts. What about you, Flossers? What are some delicious cashew treats or additions you eat that I can try?

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‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.